For four innings, the Gainesville Red Elephants were held hitless, but it is hard to keep a good offense quiet.
Gainesville proved that Wednesday by scoring five runs in the fifth inning that led to a 6-1 win over Creekview and its first Region 7-AAA championship since 2007.
“Sometimes it just takes time to get to a good pitcher,” said Gainesville coach Jeremy Kemp, whose team has now won 22 straight. “(Creekview starter Christian) Van Camp is a great pitcher and he had three pitches and threw them all effectively.
“That’s the most off-balanced we’ve been all year.”
It was only fitting that freshman Hunter Anglin was the one who got the Red Elephants (23-1, 18-0 Region 7-AAA) back on track.
After dominating the Grizzlies on the mound, Anglin led off the bottom of the fifth by getting ahead of the count 2-0, looking for a change-up, getting the pitch he wanted and launching a solo home run well over the fence in left field.
“Once I hit it, I was thinking ‘let’s go!’” said Anglin, whose home run was the first hit of the night for Gainesville. “That was a big momentum changer.”
Especially for Anglin, who misplayed a pop-up in the top half of the inning that gave Creekview (18-7, 14-4) a runner on second with no one out. But the freshman got out of his self-induced jam by getting Calvin Riddle to fly out to center, striking out Tyler Martin and inducing a foul pop up from Steven Whitaker that ended the inning.
“That was tough to recover from,” said Anglin (9-0), who held Creekview to just one hit — an infield single in the first. “I knew that our defense would be able to recover from that.”
The defense recovered from the mistake, and the offense made everyone forget it ever happened.
Following Anglin’s seventh home run of the year, the Red Elephants put three of their next four batters on base, including back-to-back RBI singles from Stephen Mason and K.J. McAllister. Sloan Strickland kept the rally going by drawing a five-pitch walk to load the bases for Ryan Griffith, who lined the first pitch he saw over the head of Van Camp to score Mason and McAllister.
“We adjusted well,” Kemp said. “We’ve struggled early against some pitchers, but we’ve gotten to everybody.”
Getting to Van Camp wasn’t easy, as the senior southpaw faced the minimum batters through the first three innings and kept Gainesville’s base stealers in check by using a good move to first that led to a successful pick-off in the third inning.
Gainesville scored a run in the fourth without a hit as Will Maddox and McAllister walked and Maddox scoring on a sacrifice fly from Griffith, who had three RBIs on the night.
At the time, it seemed like one run would be enough for Anglin.
After allowing the first two runners of the game to reach base, Anglin retired the next six batters in a row. The young right-hander kept Creekview’s talented offense in check by throwing 60 percent of his pitches for strikes and surrendering only one unearned run which came in the seventh inning.
“He did what we thought he would do,” Kemp said of Anglin. “He always responds to the pressure and I’m proud as you can be.”
Kemp’s pride kept him from displaying too much emotion after the win but he knows that this region championship is just the start of what could be for Gainesville.
“I’m more happy watching them enjoy it,” he said. “They’ve worked their tails off for this and they’ve done everything I’ve asked.”
Soon he’ll ask his players to put this win behind them and focus on the bigger picture.
“This was good because it gave us a situation when it was a must-win,” Kemp said. “But we have nine days to get ready for the playoffs,”
Gainesville still has one more regular season game — a home game against Lambert at 7 p.m. Friday — before the postseason begins May 7.